How can a general examination help in the diagnosis of malnutrition?

The weight and length must be measured and plotted on a growth chart.

A full general examination must be done, looking particularly for signs of:

  • Severe malnutrition (e.g. oedema and wasting)
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Dehydration
  • Pallor (due to anaemia)
  • Illness, e.g. diarrhoea, tuberculosis or AIDS

Most children with severe malnutrition will have other signs of kwashiorkor or marasmus. They may also have signs of vitamin or trace element deficiencies. Severe malnutrition is, therefore, a clinical diagnosis which can be made by examining the child and plotting the child’s weight and height.

Malnutrition is a clinical diagnosis based on history and examination.

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